Osgoode Hall Law Journal


John Irvine

Document Type



In Canada, near full employment in the 1960s was followed by cyclical economic recessions throughout the seventies, culminating in the severe recession of 1982. This led to employment and economic dislocation among large sectors of the labour force. The disruption caused was compounded by the introduction of new technology rendering existing worker skills redundant. The combined effect of these factors led to a large increase in the number of lay-offs of both a temporary and permanent nature during the period from 1981 to 1983. Due to the extent of workforce reductions during that period and the fact that job loss causes not only immediate financial hardship but is often accompanied by large social costs, protections against redundancy and alleviation of the adverse effects of job loss have attracted increased attention in the employment setting. Redundancy, temporary and permanent, has enormous social and economic ramifications affecting personal legal rights and duties. Given the apparent conflict of interest which exists between the economics of industrial competitiveness on the one hand and the employee's financial and psychological need for security in employment on the other, the purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which this conflict has been resolved by examining the legal and institutional protections available to employees facing redundancy in the early 1980s The term "lay-off' which is used throughout this article is conceptually imprecise. Usage of that term is not confined to its often applied context which is a temporary suspension of the employment relationship, but is used in a generic sense to cover lay-offs of both an indefinite and permanent nature Consequently, in many parts of the text, the terms "redundancy" and “lay-off” are used synonymously.